UPDATE: Two mistakes have been corrected from the original post.
Voters for Washington Children spent $15,000 in digital ads AGAINST Luis Moscoso in the District 1 Senate race. In addition, Voters for Washington Children spent $10,000 AGAINST Branden Durst in the Legislative District 29, Representative race.
Our sincerest apologies to Luis Moscoso and Branden Durst.
Nowhere is the chasm between the hard reality of our political system and the American ideals of merit, choice, and freedom more on display than during an election cycle.
Money matters – a lot.
The challenge for large money donors is how to spend big on your candidate(s) without offending the voters you’re trying to persuade. Voters understand politics is a dirty game, but they still believe in the idea that democracy should work for everyone.
Big donors have come up with a practical two step solution to this problem:
- Keep the money moving through various PACs.
- When it’s time to spend the money, use independent expenditures to further mask the source.
Openly supporting charter schools is a still a risky position for many politicians in Washington State. Let’s take a look at how pro-charter PACs supported their preferred candidates through the use of a PAC with a different name and independent expenditures.
The Name Game
Between July and August of 2016, three PACs contributed $265,500 dollars to Voters for Washington Children. They were:
Stand for Children Washington PAC
Washington Charters PAC
Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) Washington PAC
7/18 $ 7,500
The Independent Expenditure Shell Game
Voters for Washington Children contracted with a group called RALLY in San Francisco to produce digital ads and mailers for the candidates Stand for Children, DFER, and Washington Charters PAC supported.
Never heard of RALLY?
Their clients include: Teach for America, Inc. (TFA), TFA-Bay Area, the Green Dot charter chain, National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), Students Matter (of the lawsuit Vergara v. California), and Act Now for Washington Students.
Remember the charter school ads that ran during Seahawks games last year? RALLY was behind them. They also bused kids to Olympia to testify for the charter bill and coordinated all of those heartfelt cards and letters sent to the state Legislature.
From RALLY’s website:
The Washington State Charter Schools Association, along with coalition members Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), Stand for Children, the League of Education Voters, and leaders from the business community, partnered with RALLY to find and drive a solution that saved the existing schools and reinstated the will of the voters. RALLY developed and managed a high-impact legislative advocacy campaign that forced legislators, especially elected Democrats, to confront the prospect of being held responsible for closing public schools that serve a racially and economically diverse student population – or taking action to support their constituents.
To deliver our message, RALLY created a campaign that truly put parents and students front and center. We built, encouraged, and supported a strong grassroots advocacy team that made more than 1,000 calls per week to elected officials, flooded legislative offices with homemade postcards and letters, and brought hundreds of people to Olympia for multiple rallies to keep schools open. A statewide petition activated 20,000 new public charter supporters and created a backbone for a strategic digital effort that augmented the on-the-ground tactics.
Grassroots efforts were coupled with an aggressive paid media campaign designed to make it impossible for state leaders to ignore the plight of public charters. RALLY produced four television ads, which aired during Seattle Seahawks games and nightly newscasts. Additionally, voters in key swing districts around the state received a series of direct mail, robo-calls, and targeted earned media. Statewide, every major newspaper endorsed saving the schools and called on Democrats to stay true to their social justice roots. These tactics were combined with a PAC fundraising effort, a relentless online digital presence, and a robust social media strategy.
RALLY’s Independent Expenditure Ads and Mailings
How did the candidates supported by the pro-charter PACs do in the primary? Let’s take a look at the races where RALLY’s services were put to use:
Legislative District 29-State Representative Pos. 1
David Sawyer, Democrat, Representative, 29th District
7/26 $10,000 for digital ads AGAINST Branden Durst, Democrat
7/27 $10,000 for digital ads
Legislative District 1-State Senator
Guy Palumbo, Democrat, State Senate, District 1
7/21 $10,925 for digital ads
7/23 $11,714.55 for mailing
7/26 $15,000 for digital ads AGAINST Luis Moscoso, Democrat
Legislative District 5-State Senator
Mark Mullet, Democrat, State Senate, District 5
7/21 $10,658.19 direct mail
7/23 $16,189.83 two mailings
7/26 $11,525.07 direct mail
Legislative District 41-State Senator
Stephen Litzow, Republican, District 41, Senate
7/22 $4,000 digital ads
7/25 $19,930.28 direct mail
7/26 $16,782.63 direct mail
Not to be forgotten, 0n 7/27 RALLY was contracted to produced $30,000 worth of digital ads for Steven Hobbs, Democrat, who ran for the Lieutenant Governor position during the primary. Hobbs ended up coming in fourth after Cyrus Habib, Marty McClendon, and Karen Fraser.
Besides the Lieutenant Governor’s race, every campaign where RALLY’s services were engaged resulted in one of Voters for Washington Children’s candidates advancing to the general election.
Seems like Stand for Children Washington PAC, Washington Charters PAC, and Democrats for Education Reform Washington PAC got a solid return on their investment.